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Redefining Water Quality Monitoring with Blue Robotics and the SWAN

Conventional methods of water quality monitoring can be a time-consuming, resource-intensive, and expensive process. Manpower is required to collect manual samples from various locations at the site and to bring them back for analysis in the laboratory, while laboratory results can take days and only cover part of the water. As a result, issues in the water may remain undetected or become more difficult to treat if they are not discovered in time.

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Subnero Water Assessment Network (SWAN)

However, using Blue Robotics T200 Thrusters, Basic ESCs, the Fathom Tether, and loads of ingenuity, Subnero was able to develop the Subnero Water Assessment Network (SWAN); a solution that automates the process of water quality monitoring through a network of autonomous surface robot “swans” (SwanBots) and data-collecting assets (SwanNodes) connected to the SwanCloud server. The SWAN provides the user with real-time water quality data required by water utilities, water treatment companies, and water infrastructure organizations for monitoring their water supplies.

With the SWAN, issues in the water can be detected quickly while reducing manpower by carrying out the monitoring and sampling independently of an operator. The SWAN is also able to provide continuous and real-time data sets of large water bodies by monitoring the water quality at regular intervals and sending this data to the user in real-time through the cloud network. The SWAN incorporates intelligent algorithms and machine-learning techniques that adapt the SwanBot’s path to monitor areas with anomalies or uncertainty in the data.

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SWAN in city waters

Building an effective monitoring solution using Blue Robotics

What assists the SwanBot to move across large and remote water bodies in accordance with its mission are Blue Robotics’ T200 Thrusters. The smooth running of the thrusters enables the SwanBot to glide gracefully in the waters, thus blending in naturally with its surroundings. The lightweight and modular size of the T200 Thrusters also contribute to keeping the weight of the SwanBot low, which is ideal for the SWAN, as it is a solution deployed with minimum logistics.

The SwanBot’s speed may be controlled using Blue Robotics’ Basic Electronic Speed Controllers (ESC), which are typically adjusted according to the environmental conditions of the deployment. For movement in waters with opposing currents, the SwanBot’s speed has to be increased to overcome the opposing winds and waves, by raising the power input to the T200 Thrusters through the ESC. On the other hand, when the SwanBot is moving in calmer waters, its speed may be reduced to save power and at the same time minimize disturbances to the water while monitoring is ongoing. T200 Thrusters generally have a low power requirement as compared to others in the market, hence saving on the SwanBot’s power and extending its runtime.

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A SwanBot performs an autonomous water quality monitoring mission in a reservoir

Reaching depths, positively

Beyond the surface of the water, the SWAN is capable of monitoring the water quality at depth, to a maximum of 5 meters. This feature is beneficial for users who wish to get a better understanding of the behavior of a phenomenon in the water and the likely cause of it. The Fathom ROV Tether from Blue Robotics is used to power the sensor on the SwanBot while supporting its weight as it reaches various depths for monitoring. The Blue Robotics tether is a lightweight and rugged solution, hence its selection.

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Underwater shot of depth profiling on the SwanBot

“It has been great working with Blue Robotics components on the SWAN”, says Subnero, “Blue Robotics products have played a necessary role in enabling the SWAN’s key functionality of spatio-temporal monitoring in bodies of water.” Subnero is constantly looking forward to new and innovative products from Blue Robotics to bring on board their platform, expand the SWAN’s capabilities, and take on new frontiers.